At LiHigh School, we believe in self-directed learning because people learn best when they’re interested and engaged. That’s why students in our Social Entrepreneurial program are given the freedom (and responsibility) to create an individualized learning plan based around their passions and interests.
At the same time, the joy of being a student is knowing that you don’t know everything and that every day when you come to school, you’ll be exposed to something you’d never thought of, heard of, or considered. So while our students do develop independent projects and internships based around their passions, they also participate in seminars and units that open them to the wider world (though even in these seminars, the learning is highly individualized).
We have some amazing seminars and units planned for this year, including:
Who Am I?
For the first month of school, students use a variety of tools to answer the question, “Who Am I?,” with the answers leading to the development of the student’s personalized learning plan for the year. During the unit, students explore their skills, strengths, and abilities, uncover their passions and interests, set personal goals, and establish long and short-term steps to achieve those goals.
In this month-long unit, students develop their public speaking skills using templates provided by Toastmasters International. Each student gives a series of five speeches to their classmates in preparation for a final speech that they will give in front of public audience of over thirty people.
Students work individually or with a partner to construct a model-sized boat capable of navigating a given section of the Poultney River. The students’ boats compete with one another based on speed, strength, and agility. With a limited budget and supplies to work from, the unit is a hands-on exercise in creative problem-solving.
Throughout the year, students engage in physical activities designed to increase their heart rate, stretch their muscles, and work on improving their general fitness. The unit includes running, biking, hiking, snowshoeing, skiing/snowboarding, basketball, dance, frisbee, and more.
Throughout the year, students work with an advisor one-on-one or in small groups to develop their ability to reason with numbers. The unit differs based on each student’s ability level, but generally, students learn to manipulate symbols according to the rules of algebra, use numbers to evaluate hypotheses, generate estimates, measure shapes, spot and report on trends, show correlations, and construct formulas, diagrams, and graphs.
Throughout the year, students work with an advisor one-on-one or in small groups to develop their abilities to take in ideas and to express themselves. The unit differs based on each student’s ability level, but generally, students develop their skills in reading, writing, listening, interviewing, technology, creative expression, and foreign language.
Throughout the year, students develop entrepreneurial methods to raise funds in support of the school’s field trips, physical education program, and learning opportunities. Monies raised by the students are deposited into a special account that the students control, allowing them to prioritize the spending of the funds while also developing their financial skills.
Introduction to Philosophy
Students explore the purpose of philosophy and examine philosophical questions and their treatments by philosophers. Topics include theories of the “self,” the possibility of “knowledge,” the meaning of “truth,” the concepts of “good” and “evil,” notions of “liberty” and “justice,” and the relationship between the individual and society.
Introduction to Anthropology
Students learn about various aspects of anthropology, including linguistics, ethnology, archeology, and history. Students develop an understanding of what culture is, how it influences individuals and groups, and how the students’ culture serves as the lense through which they see the world around them. As a final project, students investigate and develop the worldview of a culture of their own choosing.
In this nine-week unit, students connect with works of art from prehistory to the present through a general survey of various artworks. Each student also selects a topic of their own devising and curates an exhibit of artworks around that topic. Along with the developing the students’ ability to describe, analyze, and compare works of art, the unit cultivates an appreciation for all styles of art.
Introduction to Astronomy
As the days grow shorter and the nights longer, student learn about the objects above us in the night sky. In addition to examining the science behind the stars and planets, this seminar explores the ways in which the stars have influenced humans over time. Students learn to identify objects in the night’s sky and also use the night sky to orient themselves. There is at least one evening of stargazing that is sure to have students wondering about their place in the universe.
Music & Performance
During this five-week unit, students prepare for a public performance that includes musical numbers and stage acting. Working as a group, students devise the nature of the performance, choose which roles to fill, and work with a mentor to prepare for the big event. The unit focuses on their collaboration skills, their creativity, and their sense of self-expression.
The U.S. Constitution
In this nine-week unit, students develop their understanding of the United States Constitution through an examination of both its creation and its later interpretation. Students explore the history of the document, including its amendments, and survey a range of court cases that have shaped our understanding of that document.
Students expand their understanding of two laws of science; Conservation of Mass and Conservation of Energy. Students research concepts and vocabulary in order to develop their own hypothesis about matter and energy. All students make observations during hands-on demonstrations and develop their own experiments to prove or disprove a hypothesis that relates to matter and/or energy.
In this five-week unit, students develop their skills in expressing concepts, stories, and emotions using a variety of art forms. Along with preparing their work for public exhibition, students learn to express a personal point of view, defend their work, and create meaning through art.
Family, Social, & Sexual Health
In this five-week unit, students focus on essential questions related to personal and family relationships, growth and development, and sexuality. Students learn to reduce their risks through healthy behaviors, to understand how family and social pressures influence their behaviors, to demonstrate the ability to access valid information relating to health, and to find the necessary support within their communities.
Students partner with the Children’s Inn at NIH, a nonprofit residence for children and families participating in pediatric research at the National Institute of Health Clinical Center. Along with providing direct service to the children and families at the inn, students survey a range of pediatric diseases and meet with medical researchers during a visit to the NIH in Bethesda, MD.
Building a Bread Oven
Students construct a clay bread oven for the school’s student-run restaurant. Guided by a mentor, students arrange and cement the stones required for the foundation of the oven, harvest the clay needed to form the oven, and construct the oven itself. This unit focuses on the students’ collaboration and construction skills.
The History of Vermont
Students use a variety of sources to develop an understanding of both the traditional and unconventional story of Vermont history. Special attention to local people and places bring the past to life. Students use methods learned during our anthropology study to reconstruct the worldview of a person from Vermont’s past. Students also share their learning with local historical societies.
Students travel throughout Vermont, collecting stories from a wide variety of individuals and organizations and sharing them in a public exhibition of their own design, whether through recordings, photographs, drawings, paintings, essays, poems, songs, etc. The skills improved through this unit include comprehending, analyzing, interpreting, and conveying narratives; uncovering a person’s belief about a subject; addressing ethical questions raised by a subject; and strengthening one’s sense of empathy.
It looks to be an exciting year, and we can’t wait to get started!